This week's Answer:
an excellent question, Luchesta. Your first scene in one
way or another must engage the reader/viewer. Curiosity,
attention, interest must be garnered. Remember: if
we're seeing characters in a first scene who we're going
to be seeing again, we don't know who they are, we've
never met them, and we don't care about them (at
least, not yet). In a way, they're just like people we
don't know and we pass on the street or walk by. Actually,
that's a good example to show what I'm talking about: If
you were walking in a large crowd of people, say, in a
mall, if somebody had a heart attack and fell to the
floor, which person of the whole crowd would draw your
attention? Exactly. We don't know the person, but
the dramatic event grabbed our focus just like a
good opening hook does in a movie. Why do you think they
call it a "hook"? Hooks hook you, grab and pull
you in a designated direction. That's what a good writer
does: pulls you in a designated and designed direction.
only that, but a good first scene provides not just
engrossing action and/or dialogue but also prompts a question.
Why did that happen? Why did that character say that to
the other character? Who is behind the mask who is doing
this? Why did that gang of thieves just execute the other
gang? Why did that spaceship just destroy that planet? Why
is this script consultant writing all these questions and
will he ever stop?
the hook is part of the setup for the story, giving the
audience/viewer information about the hero's world or the
world he/she will be entering soon. In a horror, the first
scene often lets us know right off the bat how horrible
the antagonist/monster/creepy person who shouldn't be
allowed to run free like this really is and what the hero
(whoever that is) will be up against. In a comedy, it's
usually something that hits our funny bone, informing us
to keep watching because many laughs are on the way. Sort
of like a horror except that it's dead bodies that are on
the way. Action films open with action; dramas open with
dramatic moments, etc.
recently received a script from somebody who really
believed in their scary script and wanted me to read it
and give my opinion. The first five pages were about a
mundane and uneventful conversation between two people
looking out at a river. I was going crazy, wanting
something, anything to happen. I found myself wishing
strange thoughts about what that could be: One of them
murders the other. Both of them murder each other at the
same time. A sea monster emerges and swallows them whole.
One tells the other that he's cheating on is wife and then
the guy kills him. The wife shows up unexpectedly and goes
off with the sea monster. What I'm trying to be clear
about is that, in your first, opening scene:
needs to happen!
But you might parry with
"But what about 'My Dinner With Andre" where the opening
scene is just two people talking? My answer: Notice how, even though,
two men are just talking, their dialogue has a fascination about it.
We're immediately wondering, "Who are these guys?" and
"Why have them met and what's their relationship"? Dramatic
So, to distill all
this down into a simple phrase: Get our attention.
sorry. My attention wandered and I forgot that I was writing a blog.